The Rundown, Volume I

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on October 22, 2012 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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Like “Big Tex,” the Dallas Mavericks had a rough week. No one spontaneously combusted, but Mavs have been dropping like flies. We all lead busy lives and can’t always keep up with what is going on with the team, so that’s what ‘The Rundown’ is for.

Every Monday, ‘The Rundown’ will chronicle the week that was for the Mavericks, as well as let you know what is coming up for the boys in blue, in my own unique way. It’s your one-stop shop to digest everything that is going on with the Dallas Mavericks. The final week of the preseason is has arrived, so let’s get this thing crackin’.

Did THAT Really Happen?

- Dirk Nowitzki said enough was enough and got the arthroscopic procedure done on his right knee. There has been a lot of second guessing in regards if Dirk took too long to make the decision about having his surgery. I can understand the doubt for waiting another week, but I don’t understand the notion that Dirk should have had the procedure done during the offseason. He had recovered from the knee issue he had early in the season, the one that cause him to miss four games. During his exit interview last season, he mentioned that things felt fine and that he would work more on his cardio and work with weights to get his legs stronger. He kept his word and felt fine in the time leading up to camp. Of course, the swelling began as camp was in full swing. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance, but there really wasn’t anything he could to work around this issue during the summer (unless he could see into the future). Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com reported that multiple sources said the team is optimistic that Dirk’s return will be closer to three weeks than six weeks. The window for return was 3-6 weeks, and it appears the Mavericks are pleased with how the procedure went. Combining that with Dirk’s (robot like) recovery skills, that could leave the door open for Dirk to miss fewer weeks of the regular season.

- O.J. Mayo’s game was stuck at the customs check while the team was in Europe, but has returned as they returned home. After scoring a combined nine points in the Mavericks’ first two preseason games, Mayo came alive by scoring 43 points in the team’s following three games. Mayo’s overall level of importance has raised dramatically with the news of Dirk having his surgery. With team’s not having to hone in on the 15-year veteran, Mayo now becomes the primary scoring threat for the Mavericks. As many saw with the game against the Atlanta Hawks, scoring will be incredibly difficult for Dallas when they’re operating in the halfcourt. Mayo talked about a responsible green light that was given to him as the main difference in coming from Memphis to Dallas. That green light will likely be stuck on automatic. He’ll need to be the straw that stirs the drink and do so while being aggressive. He’s got the athleticism to get to the rim so he needs to use that. Any chance to create easier opportunities closer to the basket is a best case scenario for the team.

- We saw the emergence of “Uncle Ricky” as Delonte West called coach Rick Carlisle that when describing how things were resolved after he was suspended for one day due to conduct detrimental to the team. “Oh yeah, we’re on the same page,’’ West said after the Mavericks’ shootaround leading up to the preseason game against the Phoenix Suns. “We’re a family over here and … Uncle Ricky handled the situation. We went and had a talk and we’re getting right back to the barbecue.’’ To top it all off, upon meeting media members, Carlisle said: “How are all my nephews?’’

“Most players in this league run on gas,’’ Carlisle said. “Delonte runs on diesel. So you got to listen to him and understand him. He’s a little different. We had a good talk yesterday about some things we needed to talk about and it’s all about refocusing and getting back to basketball.” The relationship between West and the Mavericks is as strong as ever and this will be considered as a mild bump in the road.

Box Score Revelations

- Jae Crowder got his first NBA start on Saturday night in the preseason game against the Atlanta Hawks. He continues to be a major bright spot for the Mavericks. Crowder ranks second among all players in steals per game this preseason with 2.4, 12 steals in 5 games. Houston’s Jeremy Lin leads the league with 2.5 steals per game, 10 steals in 4 games. Crowder led Dallas in scoring for the second time this preseason, includes ties, after the game against the Hawks and has now scored in double figures in three consecutive games. He is averaging 15.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 steals, 1.0 block and 21.3 minutes over his last three games. Out of everyone who has seen consistent action during the preseason, Crowder has easily been the best player. While that’s probably not the best thing for the team, it’s a promising sign that the rookie is catching on quick.

- Darren Collison’s learning curve appears to be the largest out of the veterans who came on board to the Mavericks this season. Though he’s led the team in assists each game, he still doesn’t look comfortable in terms of trying to assert himself as a scoring threat. Through five games, Collison is averaged just 8.4 points in 28.2 minutes of action. He’s been able to create opportunities for his teammates, but the speedy point guard will need to have less Jason Kidd-like performances (little scoring, high assists numbers) and provide a little more of a scoring punch.

- Turnovers. Through five games, Dallas has had a total of 96 turnovers, 19.2 turnovers/game, and that’s translated to 97 points, 19.4 points/game, for their opponents. The major concern is the fact that the turnovers aren’t really due to the players getting familiar with the system. A lot of them are in the neighborhood of careless play (which is south of Pleasantville). Another issue with the turnovers is that they’re “spreading the wealth.” There really isn’t one main culprit, but three players, Mayo, Collison and West, each have 12 turnovers through five preseason games. With scoring hard to come by, the Mavericks can’t give up free points by turning the ball over. Turnovers also put their defense in a bind as they have to run back in transition. Reducing turnovers will make things easier for the Mavericks on both ends of the floor.

Three Up:

- Rick Carlisle’s humor. Whether it’s lightening the mood with Dirk’s knee situation by talking about his own procedure two years ago and how it didn’t ruin his ping pong game or saying, “How are all my nephews,” to the media, Carlisle’s humor has been on point this season.

- Vince Carter’s upside as the sixth man for the Mavericks. He tallied 13 points off the bench at Atlanta and has now scored in double figures in three straight games. Carter, who ranks second on the team in scoring this preseason, 12.4 points/game, has scored 13-plus points in four of the Mavericks’ first five preseason contests. If Carter can provide that scoring off the bench, that will go a long way in helping replicate the numbers Jason Terry had as the sixth man off the bench for Dallas.

- The rookies are doing fine. Jae Crowder has already been discussed at length, but Jared Cunningham and Bernard James are holding their own as rookies. Cunningham is running the floor well and finishing with authority at the rim. He remains a project, but he’s showing nice upside. James has a solid knack when it comes to trying to rebound the ball. He hasn’t looked lost on defense and isn’t a liability on offense. The Mavericks might have a good chance of going 3-for-3 in the 2012 draft.

Three Down:

- Point guard play. Jason Kidd might have been long in the tooth, but he had firm control of how things needed to operate on the offensive end of the floor and within their flow. As it was mentioned earlier, Darren Collison is still trying to find his way on offense. If the team’s quarterback is having issues getting going, that usually will mean the team will struggle. As players who are familiar with the system, Delonte West and Dominique Jones really haven’t helped the cause.

- Defensive disposition. This may be due having a lot of new players in the fold, but the defense doesn’t look like they’re playing on a string. Dallas has had players in the past who weren’t known as defensive stoppers, but they found a way to get the most out of them to where it led to good team defense. At this early point of the journey, Dallas just doesn’t have it clicking on defense. While the offense is struggling, the Mavericks can’t let their defensive tenacity to slip. It would only benefit the team’s offensive efficiency by working hard on defense. If they can create stops, they have players who can push the ball with force and create easy scoring opportunities. This is another factor for the team to put in the ‘wait and see’ category.

- Continuity. The Mavericks just haven’t been able to make any significant headway as they push through the preseason. When they take one step forward, they immediately follow that up with two steps back. When there is some continuity on offense, they struggle on defense. When it feels like they’re getting healthier, guys go down. It would be ideal to have this situation be where they’re just getting it out of their system now while the games don’t matter. Despite not having Dirk during the early part of the season, the schedule will be favorable for the Mavericks. If the Mavericks can take advantage of the easier schedule and build some momentum, things will start to look up for the boys in blue.

Honorable mention goes to Roddy Beaubois and his knack for getting his finger snagged in an opponent’s jersey. He had his finger caught on a jersey on Saturday night. That marked the second time in two years he’s had that situation come up. It happened in a game in Chicago against the Bulls. He ended up coming back in that game versus the Bulls and scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in the loss. Roddy needs to keep those fingers away from jerseys.

Check Your Calendar:

- The Mavericks will host the New Orleans Hornets on Monday. Chris Kaman will get a chance to see his former team, and the Mavericks will get a chance to look at two of the premiere rookies that came out of this summer’s draft. The Hornets selected big man Anthony Davis out of Kentucky with the first overall selection in the draft. They followed that up by selecting guard Austin Rivers out of Duke University with the 10th overall pick in the draft. The Hornets also acquired Ryan Anderson from the Orlando Magic. Though he was a free agent, they were able to retain Eric Gordon. Gordon has been dealing with a knee issue, so it remains to be seen on whether or not the Mavericks will actually see him in action.

- Wednesday marks the penultimate preseason game for the Mavericks as they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Wichita, Kansas. The game marks the final preseason game for the Thunder. It will mark the first time the two teams have met since the Thunder swept the Mavericks in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs en route to their first appearance in the NBA Finals. The sweep was the first time a Dirk Nowitzki led team was swept out of any round of the playoffs. For the most part, the Thunder remain the same squad from the last time the Mavericks saw them. It will be interesting to see how guards like Mayo and Collison will do against the Russell Westbrook/James Harden combination. This game could be a track meet as both have the capability to run up and down the floor.

- The final game of the preseason comes on Friday night as the Mavericks head to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats. The Mavericks will get to see Brendan Haywood for the first time since letting him go through the amnesty provision. It should be interesting to see how Chris Kaman (maybe) and Elton Brand do as they go up against the former Maverick. They will also get to see Ramon Sessions, a player linked to the Mavericks as a potential free agent acquisition, in action. Charlotte is still widely regarded as one of the worst teams in the league, so the Mavericks will want to do everything they can to ensure they gain some momentum going into the regular season and ensure that nobody else gets hurt.

BG’s Baller of the Week

Baller status has been given to Jae Crowder. The last pick for the Mavericks in the 2012 NBA Draft (34th overall) was the most impressive rookie for the team during the Las Vegas Summer League and he’s carried that positive momentum into the preseason. While Jared Cunningham and Bernard James have shown positive signs with their actions on the court during the preseason, Rick Carlisle has let it be known that he loves what Crowder has given the team during the first five games for the Mavericks of the preseason. Whether it is crashing the glass, scoring from inside or outside or providing tough defense, Crowder is doing everything he can to help the team. As it was mentioned earlier, his activity might go up as Dirk Nowitzki is out of the mix for the foreseeable future. Rookies hit the wall at some point during their first season, so he’s due to come down from his impressive start. In the meantime, Jae Crowder is making the most of his opportunities. He’s well on his way to becoming one of the bigger steals of the 2012 draft.

Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.